Meet Bretton Hills, your frozen oyster harvester!

Allison Hepworth - January 5, 2022

We’re absolutely thrilled to introduce you to your newest oyster harvester, Bretton Hills!

Coming from a background in food security consulting, Bretton had always wanted to work at the forefront of the regenerative food movement. A few years ago, she decided it was time to quit her consulting job, take some business courses, and get some boots on the deck experience by volunteering at kelp and oyster farms around BC. In spring of 2020, she heard about an oyster farm for sale on the Sunshine Coast, and she jumped at the opportunity. Since then she’s been living off grid, working on the water with her dog Bagheera alongside her, and harvesting and flash-freezing delicious Pacific oysters in a seafood manner off the pristine waters off Nelson Island, BC. 

Bretton’s surface-cultured oysters are grown out and hardened up 10 feet below the ocean surface off BC’s Sunshine Coast in the pristine waters off BC’s Nelson Island in Telescope Passage. 

Bretton and her team harvest and sort all the oysters by hand. They package them in mesh bags and then store them in the water column at a temperature below 10C. Like all oyster farmers in BC, Bretton sends a sample from each batch to a third party testing facility. As soon as they’re cleared for any pathogens, Bretton’s team hauls the oysters back up, puts them into totes covered in ice, and drives over to the marina to catch a ferry. 

As far as she knows, Bretton is the only person currently freezing whole oysters in the province, and we think that’s pretty awesome. Since Vancouver Coastal Health requires farmers market meat and seafood producers to freeze their product, Bretton thought she may as well give it a try. After all, it’s not uncommon to freeze oysters in other parts of the world – BC oysters are often frozen for export! After a few test runs using industrial flash freezing technology, she found it worked really well! Bretton thinks that part of the reason so few oysters are frozen might be due to the old adage to not eat dead shellfish. But so much more testing for pathogens is required now that the risk of eating contaminated oysters is largely minimized!

As with most of our fishers, since Bretton isn’t at the mercy of a product with a short shelf life, it means she can provide more stable volumes, and produce less food waste. In addition to all the benefits of frozen seafood that we already boast, the fact that these oysters are frozen means they don’t need to be shucked – once they’re thawed, the shells open slightly which means you can easily pop them open with a butter knife! Paired with the fact that they’re delicious, healthy, prolific, and sustain the environment around them, oysters might just be the perfect addition to any Skipper Otto member’s diet.

“A lot of people see oysters as this bougie appetizer. But they really can be a centre-of-the-plate, family meal,” Bretton explains. And since shucking oysters is often a barrier for some folks, we think her frozen oysters might be the key to making this delicacy more accessible, and eventually become a staple in Skipper Otto members meal rotations! 

Bretton’s favourite ways to enjoy oysters include grilling them with cilantro cheese butter, breading and frying them and then serving with different dipping sauces, or in a salad, poke bowl, or pasta dish! She also loves eating ugly oysters with her staff at the marina, with just a bit of lime juice squeezed on top. Safe to say we’ll be asking her for more recipes soon!

Bretton has worked hard to achieve her dream of owning an oyster farm, and we’re so pleased to offer you a taste of her harvest!

Allison Hepworth - January 5, 2022

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Meet Bretton Hills, your frozen oyster harvester!

Allison Hepworth - January 5, 2022

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